A new study published by Academics from universities in Sweden and UK have revealed a new way for hackers to decipher a user’s unlock pattern on his/her Android smartphone. The study claims the new technique to be called SonarSnoop, which involves using the smartphone’s built-in speaker and microphone to create a sonar system, in order to track the finger movement on the screen.
According to ZDNet’s report on the study, the new hacking method can be used by deploying a malicious app, which enables the smartphone’s speaker to emit sound waves at a lower frequency of 18kHz and 20kHz. While these sound waves cannot be heard by humans, they can be picked up by the smartphone’s microphone after being bounced off a nearby object, which in this case is the finger. This itself creates a sonar system similar to that of the submarines, which is used to track movement.
The audio created by the movement of the finger on the screen can later be fed into machine learning algorithms that can translate the data to reveal a possible unlock pattern. The report states that these algorithms can be customized according to the placement of the speaker and the microphone of a specific smartphone in order to increase accuracy.
In theory, SonarSnoop works on the same lines of FingerIO, which is a technology that was created to improve interactions on the smartwatch, without touching the screen. The technology here uses high-frequency sound waves to allow users to draw shapes and lines on the screen by making the gestures not directly on it but near it.
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While SonarSnoop isn’t extremely accurate, it is said to reduce the number of possible patterns by 70 percent. Further the report even claims the technology to improve over time offering a higher possibility of success. Not just smartphones, the technology is also said to be applicable for other devices that support a microphone and speaker.